We need help.
That was the overarching theme of the Senate State Government Committee hearing Tuesday in Harrisburg. The committee heard from the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) and the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP).
Both groups noted the importance of elections that are fair, secure, and accessible.
Matthew Weil, the Director of the Elections Project at the BPC, advocated to establish a pre-canvassing period that would allow election workers at least three days ahead of an election to prepare mail-in ballots for the formal count.
He told committee members seven days or longer would be best for pre-canvassing, but supported the three-day period suggested by Sen. David Argall (pictured), R-Berks/Schuylkill, and state Sen. Sharif Street, D-Philadelphia in SB 878.
Weil finished by stating that “The Committee should also start laying the groundwork now for a more comprehensive assessment and reform of Pennsylvania’s election code in the 2023 legislative session.”
Christopher Thomas, Michigan’s state election director for 36 of his 40 years with the Department of State, testified that “a primary role of the secretary of State is to ensure uniformity in the conduct of election.”
He agreed that if three days for pre-canvassing is what is offered, election officials should take it.
Rachel Orey, senior policy analyst with BPC, spoke to how pre-canvassing would require funding and labor. She encouraged committee members to explore a shift in election funding.
Darryl Miller, Bradford County Commissioner, and Sherene Hess, Indiana County Commissioner, met with the nine-member committee and asked it to focus on the needs of counties as they administer the upcoming federal and statewide primary and general elections.
Miller, president of CCAP, testified that “the changes to election administration (has) significantly increased costs to counties and the resources that we need to run what is, in essence, an entirely separate election. We have heard counties reporting that their elections-related costs have at least doubled over the past few years, as we needed additional supplies, saw printing costs go up, and watched staffing and overtime needs grow to address the significant workload increases.”
Hess, chair of the CCAP Elections Reform Committee, testified that “we must promote election integrity by assuring counties have clear and efficient rules to help restore the public’s confidence in our elections.” She mentioned guidance on drop boxes for vote-by-mail ballots, so-called “naked” ballots, and curing of ballots as examples of how to address certain situations.